small d, Big J

What Steven desJardins is interested in.
Saturday, January 25, 2003

XANDER: Y'know, maybe we're on the wrong track with the whole spell, curse, and whammy thing. Maybe what we should be looking for is something like slayer kryptonite.

OZ: Faulty metaphor. Kryptonite kills.

XANDER: You're assuming I meant the green kryptonite. I was referring, of course, to the red kryptonite which drains Superman of his powers.

OZ: Wrong, the gold kryptonite is the power sucker. Red kryptonite mutates Superman in some sort of weird--

BUFFY: Guys? Reality.

Today's Buffy quote is from the third season episode, "Helpless". I always thought this was a mildly cool scene, in a geeky way, because what they're not bringing out is that this dialogue makes perfect sense, if Xander is thinking of the post-Crisis Superman, and Oz is thinking of the earlier, pre-Crisis Silver Age Superman. And that makes fits, because Oz is super-cool, and he'd naturally be into the earlier stuff. But I listened to the writer's commentary, and it turns out he just didn't have all the types of kryptonite straight, and he figured it would be okay if they argued about it. (Joss would've fixed it if he'd gotten it wrong, though. I have faith in Joss.)

This is also the episode that inspired me to filk:

One day the Watcher's Council
Sent Rupert to fight bad foes
Bringing his dusty volumes
Glasses, and some tweedy clothes.

All of the other Watchers
Were jealous of his TV fame.
They wouldn't let poor Rupert
Join in any Watcher games.

Then on Buffy's natal day
Rupert came to say,
"Summers, on this slaying night,
Won't you have some kryptonite?"

Final verse omitted because it sucked.

Weird dream last night. Somebody found a plane crash in the Mississippi River, which contained ballots for George W. Bush from the 2000 election. Right-wing pundits--that is, the "mainstream media"--were going on about how this proved Bush had won a majority in the election, and I was thinking, "Wait, these ballots can't be from Florida, can they? What would they be doing in a plane over the Mississippi River? And he wasn't even close to winning the popular vote. How come none of the news stories say how many ballots there were? What are they hiding?"

Friday, January 24, 2003
The Washington Post reviewed Intacto today, which I saw at the Hawaii Film Festival. The premise, that luck is an intrinsic characteristic that can be transferred from one person to another, and that a secret subculture exists in which players gamble to steal each other's luck, is original and has intriguing philosophical richness. The execution, sadly, is not as exciting. Individual scenes are well done and my interest never flagged, but the parts didn't add up to much of a whole and my hope for a thoughtful philosophical payoff went unsatisfied. What I did find interesting was the skillful use of incluing, the process of subtly explaining the "rules" of a fantasy universe through small details that the alert viewer picks up on. The devoted reader of science fiction builds up a mental model as the story progresses, with clues, hypotheses, hints, confirmation, gradually fitting together. Often there's more than one explanation for nonrealistic oddities, so you need to keep two or more possibilities in your head at once until further revelations clarify which is intended. It isn't hard, exactly, but it's very much a learned skill, which explains why I had no trouble following it and my mother was totally lost. (My family went to this movie because I picked it, so I'm disappointed that it wasn't more interesting.)

Science fiction aficionados may find something to interest them here, but others should probably stay away.


I'm quick to criticize the current administration, so it's only fair to comment when they do something right. SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt (who ostentatiously quit months ago, but hasn't been going anywhere) apparently championed a rule requiring mutual funds to disclose how they cast proxy votes on behalf of their shareholders. There's no obvious reason besides principle for him to do this. The failure of Big Money to police Big Money is one of the biggest problems in corporate governance today, and this is a step in the right direction. Good for him

On the hypocritical weasel front, Orrin Hatch, who was at the forefront of efforts to block Clinton's judicial nominees, is changing the rules now that the Republicans are back in charge.

The stupid op-ed of the day is David Ignatius's "Hollywood Blues", which tries to make the case that Hollywood is churning out crap. That wouldn't seem to be a hard case to make, but he blows it with his description of The Two Towers as a "formulaic sequel". And what formula would that be, exactly?

Correction of the day goes to Michael Kinsley: "In a recent column I mistakenly wrote that as a congressman in 1964, the elder George Bush voted against the Civil Rights Act. I should have written that as a Senate candidate in 1964, the elder George Bush publicly opposed the Civil Rights Act. To the many readers who wrote in to accuse me of libeling the former president, I apologize for calling him a congressman in 1964, although he was a congressman later. "

Thursday, January 23, 2003
Tonight's movie was Sabrina, with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. An enjoyable light movie. It's nice to see the buttoned-down serious type getting the girl, but it would have been nicer if he knew his own mind. The story was well told, which makes up for a lot.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

On Monday, the second anniversary of George W. Bush's inauguration, federal workers stayed home en masse. My old geometry teacher, Mrs. Collins, came by Marie's house and we talked for awhile about the gifted math program in Howard County, which everyone in my family went through and which my two nieces will soon be going through, and other stuff. Quesadillas and salad for lunch. I unwrapped my Christmas presents from Susan, some peppermint tea cookies and one of those chocolate oranges that was peppermint instead of orange. She said she'd also buy me a wireless transmitter when I get my new laptop, which will be nice. (I still need to decide whether to get cable or DSL--cable's cheaper, but I suspect DSL might be more reliable. I do not trust Comcast.)

Best story: My mother recalled when David's math teacher asked her if she get could David to stop arguing with her about pi. My mother asked what she meant. "He keeps saying that pi isn't rational," she explained.

Mrs. Collins added that the first thing David ever said to her was, "What kind of number is pi?"

Gertrude Janeway, the last surviving widow of a Union veteran from the Civil War, died a few days ago. She was 18 in 1927 when she married an 81-year-old veteran.

One widow of a rebel Confederate soldier is still alive.

The Onion: "It makes sense. Those people making money on stock dividends didn't do any work, so why should they have to pay any taxes?"

ANYANKA: You trusting fool! What makes you think the other world is any better?

GILES: Because it has to be.

Two more episodes from my Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 3 DVD's tonight. The quote above sticks with me because of its delivery, utterly weary, the words of a man who has lost every reason to hope, but retains at his core an ineradicable faith that the world can be made better. The nightmare world of "The Wish", where the forces of darkness have triumphed and rule Sunnydale unquestioned, was of course not intended as a metaphor for the fate of liberals under the nightmare presidency of George W. Bush, but like Giles I retain an ineradicable faith that we can achieve a better world. (When I started this post, I just intended to make a point about liberals, but as I was writing the parallel jumped out at me. Future quotes from Buffy will be non-political. Probably.)


My sister Susan was in town, so I spent the long holiday weekend out in Maryland. I had already given Susan her Christmas presents, but while the rest of the family was shopping for clothes I was wandering around a Barnes & Noble, and Susan decided that she wanted the copy of Salt I picked up, so she got an extra present.

Later that evening I faced the challenge of playing Connect Four with a six-year-old. I wouldn't throw the game, so if I had the chance to make four in a row, I took it, and if she had three in a row I blocked, and if there was a move that would give her a win I didn't make it, but otherwise I didn't try to win. I still won the first two games, but in the third game I made sufficiently non-aggressive moves that we filled up all but two columns, and I was finally forced to give her the win.

That night I finished Donald Kingsbury's Psychohistorical Crisis, an unauthorized sequel to the Foundation trilogy, which I really enjoyed. Chock full of ideas about what the galaxy under the Second Foundation would actually be like, updated to include modern ideas about computers, with some very thoughtful extension's to Hari Seldon's axioms of psychohistory. The characterization and plot were good enough to make this a page-turner; I kept wondering what would happen next to the twelve-year-old Eron Osa, or whether the mysterious galactorium was a fake, and whether I should be rooting for or against the hidden rebels. Great fun.

Sunday Heather had a gymnastics meet, and I had enough good-uncle points that I stayed home. (It was a 2 1/2 hour drive each way, plus 1 1/2 hours of warming up before the meet.) Instead I slept late, watched some two foreign movies and five episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and took a long nap in the afternoon.

Summer was a typical Eric Roemer movie, about a young woman whose long-time fiance has not quite broken up with her, and who spends her vacation unhappily alone and avoiding getting involved with anyone else, until a miracle happens. Like all of his movies, there's much about his treatment of romance that seems alien to me, but there's also a lot that strikes home, and all of it is observed with a sophisticated level of fine, homey detail. (There are brief shots of nude children and casually topless women which no American movie could get away with. We are so weird.)

Twin Warriors was a dubbed martial arts movie with Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh. I didn't know it was dubbed until I started watching it. They had subtitles for the hearing impaired, but not the original Chinese soundtrack, which was very disappointing. It turned what could have been a silly but pleasing three-star movie into a somewhat uneven two-star movie. Oh well.

Another post later.


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